Hey, did you hear the story about the woman who got a creepy message from a guy on OKCupid? Of course you did! You know why? Because everybody with a social media account and a dating profile, at one time or another, likes to bitch about their OKCupid messages. Writer Maggie Serota is no different.
Long story short, Serota received a verbose message from a guy who intentionally searched for her on OKCupid using details she provided when she made a slew of OKCupid messages public.
The fact that I received gross, inappropriate, or overly familiar, boundary-crossing messages isn’t a unique experience in and of itself. Any woman who has been online can testify to the same experience. However, if a message was especially egregious, I would typically crop out the user name and share it on my Facebook or Twitter.
Exactly, Maggie. Receiving gross messages from guys on OKCupid is quite common for women who use that site. Like her, I sometimes grab a screen shot of a guy’s message and share it with friends. I’ve even quoted some here. The overwhelming number of numb nuts that occupy OKCupid can be quite frustrating, so I feel Serota on this. But here’s where she loses me:
If I was already teetering on the edge of deleting my account, then this was the message that put me over.
— Maggie Serota (@maggieserota) August 26, 2015
Now, I happen to agree with Serota that the guy showed clear signs of lacking good boundaries. However, nobody who so egregiously shares information about themselves on the internet (i.e. pretty much everybody these days) should show disgust or shock that someone used the bread crumbs they laid out and found their dating profile. That’s what the key word search function is for. Is the idea of it unsettling? Absolutely. The guy who wrote Serota the message clearly has poor social skills. As I’ve said, Google your pants off, but keep that information to yourself lest you come off like a stalker. But here’s the kicker:
Listen, do I Google people I’m curious about? All the time. Everyone does. Do I then barf my weird feelings about what I discovered into a weird 500-word missive to said person, explicitly delineating what I had learned about him during each phase of the creepy journey? Do I lay this out thinking that the person will be impressed with my keen internet sleuthing skills, complete with bloodcurdling boasting like “Googling was necessary, and so easy?” Like, most people with social skills, no, I don’t. Do I then address the person like I actually know them based on what I learned in my research? Fuck no, mainly because I try not to give most potential dates the impression that I want to wear their face as a mask. I’d like to believe that most people feel this way.
She’s admitting that she does the same thing. So, she’s not upset at what he did, but at how awkwardly he executed his idea. And I get that. I truly do. I’ve received messages like this, too. Guys contact me knowing who I am and use an inappropriate tone of familiarity with me. I am equally unnerved by emails like this. But then I piece together how they found me and think, “Oh, right. The internet.”
Where Serota takes a wrong turn is making this into a thing. First, there’s absolutely nothing innovative or original about this story. Woman receives cringeworthy messages from a dating site or app and the internet yawns. It’s a tale as old as Tinder. Second, the last thing anybody should do when they feel genuinely harassed is poke the bear. Bottom line: that’s dangerous. I did it myself a few weeks ago, but only after spending a month or so saying nothing. For me, that was a last resort, and it was after I filed a police report because he threatened to slit my throat.
When I post upsetting or inept messages on OKCupid, I get a lot of responses from women who have received similar messages. To that end, there’s a case to be made that messages that lack regard for women’s comfort and boundaries aren’t outliers, but a gross status quo where men feel entitled to say whatever they feel like to women they don’t know.
100% agree with this. Women are harassed on OKCupid on the regs. No question. But please don’t conflate the two issues and try to make this into some kind of feminist cause, because this isn’t harassment or stalking. It’s a socially inept guy awkwardly flirting with you using information you put on blast to the masses. You got a gross email and you ran to the internet and tweeted it out for head pats and validation. End of story.
At that point, I had responded back to the failed suitor, to essentially tell him to fuck off. Well, not essentially, I actually just called him a creep and told him to fuck off. In the meantime, a friend who works at OKCupid saw the message and asked me for his user name and banned him. Apparently, they have a zero tolerance policy for creeps, which I respect.
Wait, what? OKCupid has a zero tolerance policy for creeps? Orly? That’s funny, because I’ve reported numerous guys on that site and nothing has been done about them. I think the more accurate explanation is that OKCupid saw the shit storm brewing and didn’t want any more bad press, so they intervened.
At that point, I assumed that sending someone a message that said “You are a creep, fuck off” would end our correspondence. It did not. I received this non-apology in my work email, which was even more verbose than the original message.
I’m not crazy about how she’s trying to imply the guy went above and beyond to contact her at her job. I’m assuming that it was the work email she provides in her Twitter bio that he used to message her. I could be wrong, though.
I like how the dude blames me for his cyberstalking of me. pic.twitter.com/AMwJzxJZv6
— Maggie Serota (@maggieserota) August 27, 2015
I wouldn’t call any of this cyber-stalking. If it is, well, she does it, too. She admitted as much earlier in the essay. So…
He is right in the sense that it’s not for him to decide if he’s a creep. It’s for me to decide. I think he’s a creep and as the recipient of his letters, my opinion is the only one that matters. Plus, it doesn’t help that his message is less of an apology and more of an explanation of all the jokes I supposedly didn’t get plus a scolding for talking about using a dating site online. Mind you, I never provided the specific profile handle, but just admitting to using them is enough for this guy to blame me for his creepy e-surveillance
Remember, Serota originally published the dumb messages she received on social media. It’s her attempts to make this guy sound unhinged when all he did was piece together information she provided that really bothers me about this story.
A German journalist published an essay arguing that I basically asked for this kind of attention because I, like most people who write for a living or work in media, have an internet presence.
Okay, can we please stop using phrases we know are associated with genuinely heinous crimes when discussing something as innocuous as online dating messages? We all know that a phrase like “asking for it” conjures up images of women who have been assaulted, violated, or abused. Stop that shit now. And while I wouldn’t say she was “asking for it” I would say that she exposed herself to this non-crime by making certain bits of information about herself public. This is the reality we live in now; everything we say can lead people right to us. Nobody should know that better than someone who writes on the internet for a living. She is not to blame for anything. It is the culture of over-sharing and resulting accessibility that is at fault. As she said, we all do it to some degree, but few of us actually admit it.
As I said, I absolutely get why this guy’s awkward messages got under Serota’s skin. Being a woman who writes on the internet is fraught with all kinds of legitimate threats. She has no idea whether or not this guy lives in Sweden or is her next door neighbor. But what he did, while definitely socially inept, was not cyber-stalking. There was no malicious intent here that I can see.
There was also a bizarre consensus that if I in any way publicly mention that I use a dating platform, then I have to be okay with someone seeking me out, letting me know exactly how they sought me out and be chill about whatever passive aggressive, self-loathing diatribe they want to vomit into my inbox. I have to be okay with being given an unsolicited road map through a guy’s internet obsession.
Nobody should be told to sit back and stay silent when someone accosts them online. BUT that’s not really what this guy did. Terming his endeavor an “obsession” really just makes Serota sound knee-jerk and full of herself.
I’m not one of then people who think she should date this guy. He made her uncomfortable, and that’s a valid response. But framing this as a man who had some kind of unhealthy fixation on her and who crossed a line is both overwrought and self-important. He didn’t show up to her home, he just emailed her on a dating site – a site designed to introduce people to strangers.
I’ve counseled people here literally hundreds of times about how to interact with people in the digital age. The reality is that nobody online is anonymous. No matter how careful you think you’re being, if you have any kind of profile anywhere, you make yourself vulnerable. Dating now requires a great deal of foresight. People think nothing of linking their Facebook or Instagram accounts to their profiles in some way. Photos can be reverse image searched and the tiniest bits of information – details we think are inconsequential – can pave a path right to our real identities. Forget about it if you have a unique first name. In those cases there is no hiding unless you give an alias or nickname or different spelling. Then you have to explain why you did that. Face it: at any time, anybody can find you. If that bothers you, then get off the internet now.
Personally, I am fatigued by all the posts about bad OKCupid and Tinder messages. I just don’t care anymore, and that’s the problem. Like I said earlier, there is nothing original about these manifestos that make the rounds. By now, everybody should know what they’re opening themselves up to when they join OKCupid or Tinder. Caveat emptor, folks. I’m not saying it’s right that people are rude or obnoxious or threatening, nor am I saying we should stay silent about it. Report the weirdos and people who send inappropriate messages and let that be it. Stop taking these dumb stories to the internet because that actually trivializes the issue.
The other problem with articles like this is that they plant seeds in other people’s minds about online dating. It certainly can be a frustrating and disheartening experience, but online dating isn’t nearly as awful as people like Maggie want you to believe. It’s unfortunate that Maggie encountered the amount of disappointment that she encountered, but there’s no need to try and convince everybody else to get off a site just because she couldn’t find anyone. Intentional or not, that’s the underlying message of soapbox rants like the one she wrote. I couldn’t meet anyone because online dating is ineffective and full of unpleasant people. No, not quite.
There are plenty of good people who use those sites. If you find yourself unable to meet any of them, then it’s time for a little personal inventory.
Sorry, Maggie. Maybe it’s you.